Errors doom PawSox
Boles faces balancing act when team has to accommodate rehabbing players
PAWTUCKET – When Red Sox rehabbers like Dustin Pedroia walk into the PawSox clubhouse, they do so with a set-in-stone plan already in place. Sounds like smooth sailing for manager Kevin Boles and his coaching staff, no?
“They’re going to dictate what happens, but you also have to make an in-game adjustment,” said Boles prior to Pawtucket committing four errors and leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning of a 5-4 loss to Buffalo on Wednesday.
Delving further, Boles referenced a rehab start made by David Price nearly one year ago in Buffalo. The left-hander needed 69 pitches to get through two innings. He might have been scheduled to throw 85-90 pitches, but in some instances, you have to take a step back and use common sense.
Price didn’t take the mound for the third inning, a decision that began with a simple observation by the person who’s on the ground floor.
“Throwing him back out there and extending this, is that going to be productive or counterproductive?” Boles said. “With rehabbers, you always rather err on the side of caution. If there’s something you don’t like, you can always make a suggestion.”
That appeared to be the case on Tuesday night when the PawSox were rained out. The team waited until 7 p.m. before officially postponing the game, yet Pedroia was nowhere to be found when the clubhouse was made available to the media. A wet field and a player who’s coming back from knee surgery was a mixture that Boston clearly wanted no part of, hence it wouldn’t have come as a shocker to learn that Pedroia was told that then risk far outweighed the reward well in advance of the announced postponement.
“You’re going ask to give your opinion because you’re there with the player,” Boles said. “All you can do is paint a picture so they can ultimately make a judgment, but hopefully they trust what your eyes say.”
Whenever a Pedroia or a Price comes to Pawtucket, they immediately gain a best friend in Boles.
“The biggest thing is talking with these players and making sure you’re communicating with them,” Boles said. “You tell them before they start that, ‘Look, I’m going to be asking you a lot about you’re feeling. It’s not meant to annoy you. It’s about staying on top of where you’re at.’ After pregame workouts, you ask. During the game, you ask.”
The starting pitcher who’s making a rehab start represents the easiest player to manage because he can go through his normal pregame ritual before taking the mound. A position player can take batting practice and stay loose by hitting in the cage before hitting the field roughly 20 minutes before first pitch so he can stretch.
The trickiest group of rehabbers to manage are relievers. Generally, they’ll throw one inning and between 20-25 pitches. There is a caveat that has Boles on alert even before someone like Tyler Thornburg takes the mound.
“They don’t have all the time in the world to prepare unless they know they’re coming at the very end of the game,” Boles said.
As was the case with Thornburg on Monday night and with Craig Kimbrel when he made an appearance with the PawSox two summers ago, a rehabbing reliever’s outing can go awry in a hurry. When that happens, there’s no reason to flirt with danger. For Boles, it’s all about cutting bait like what happened when Thornburg was lifted after facing just four Buffalo hitters.
With rehabbers, the type of minor-league numbers they put up before getting activated is a secondary concern. The most important question that Boles has to answer is whether he feels they’re ready to help the parent club.
“There comes a point where you’re building them up stamina-wise and getting them used to being on their feet as long as they have to be out there. What we try to do is evaluate with our own eyes and depending on the injury, are they favoring it? It’s very simple,” Boles said. “It’s not so much performance-related. It’s about getting them healthy and hope that their timing is on by the time they’re ready to go back up.” ***
It was an interesting seventh inning for hard-throwing PawSox reliever Ty Buttrey on Wednesday. He struck out the side and pitched around two errors and a walk that fostered a first-and-third jam with two down. Buttrey escaped by striking out Buffalo No. 3 hitter Rowdy Tellez, who already had two hits by that point. The punchout of Tellez kept the game tied at 4-4.
“He got out of what could have been a particularly damaging inning. He has swingand-miss capability with the stuff that he has. With him, it’s about trying to stay away from pitching in high-stress innings all the time,” Boles said.
Buttrey has been involved in more than his fair share of tight spots this season – he’s allowed baserunners to reach in eight of his 12 outings. Boles says that when trouble arises, it’s important for Buttrey to trust his mid 90s fastball and not let the game speed up unnecessarily. Of the last 43 outs that Buttrey has recorded, 25 have come via strikeout.
“When those moments happen, it’s natural that the game speeds up on you a little bit,” said Buttrey, who was added to Boston’s 40man roster last winter. “When the runner got to second base (on Wednesday), I focused on executing my pitches instead of rushing my delivery and it paid off.”
EXTRA BASES: Sam Travis and Mike Ohlman belted solo home runs for the PawSox, but the Bisons pushed across the goahead in the ninth on a sacrifice fly that was aided by a throwing error from the catcher Ohlman. Pawtucket loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth but Rusney Castillo’s two-out fly ball died just before the warning track in center field. … The home run was the first for Travis since April 16 and obviously his first since coming off the disabled list last Saturday. The blast cleared everything in left field. … William Cuevas overcame a three-run first inning to provide six innings of four-run ball with four strikeouts. … Fernando Rodriguez Jr. made his return from the disabled list with a scoreless eighth inning while Ryan Brasier allowed an unearned run in the top of the ninth. … Despite the four errors, the PawSox allowed just one unearned run. Ohlman was wild with two throws while shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin was off with a throw and also booted a ball. “We need to care of the baseball. We’re not looking for perfection, but that’s not what we’re looking for,” Boles said. … Wednesday’s attendance was 4,678. … The PawSox will enjoy an off day on Thursday before hitting the road for a three-game series in Rochester that begins Friday. The probable pitchers are Chandler Shepherd (2-2, 4.75) on Friday, Justin Haley on Saturday (1-4, 3.74), and Marcus Walden (0-1, 7.50) on Sunday. … Nothing is confirmed, but all signs point to right-handed reliever Austin Maddox beginning a rehab assignment with the PawSox this weekend. Maddox (shoulder) has been on the disabled list since spring training. Last year, he appeared in 27 games for Pawtucket and 13 games for Boston.
PawSox catcher Mike Ohlman connected on a solo home run in the third inning to help the PawSox grab a one-run lead Wednesday morning. Buffalo came back to win the game, 5-4, at McCoy.
Pawtucket starting pitcher William Cuevas allowed four runs in six innings in the PawSox’ 5-4 defeat to Buffalo Wednesday morning at McCoy Stadium.